Gulliver's Travels

Release Date: December 22, 2010


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136/190 Max Braden The idea of using the Liliputians to recreate Star Wars was amusing, but this is mostly paint by numbers adventure. And not unlike Shrek.

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It is all too common for a novel to be ignored at its publication only to be revered much later. Moby Dick, for instance, was not considered a classic until after Herman Melville’s death. This fate was not the case for Gulliver’s Travels. Written by Irishman Jonathan Swift, the classic novel was first published in 1726 and has stayed in print ever since. The biting satire saved its scorn for no person, its targets ranging from European royalty to human nature.

Gulliver, or more verbosely, Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, in Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of several Ships, tells the tale of a man who has rather poor luck in navigation. But through the pirate attacks, mutinies, and boorish weather he is able to travel to four fantastic lands. His most famous stop was his first voyage, shipwrecking onto the land of Lilliput, filled with tiny natives only a fraction the size of Gulliver. The iconic scene for this chapter is of Gulliver tied down to the ground, imprisoned by the minute Lilliputians. Even if you have not read the book or seen one of the adaptations this part of the story may be familiar as it has been used, re-used, lampooned, and flat out stolen in a host of other places.

Actually, for such an iconic literary property, it is almost astonishing how relatively few times it has been adapted into a proper film (especially seeing how it is far past the 95 year moratorium for public domain). Perhaps the technical challenges turned off early filmmakers, but CGI has progressed to a point where special effects should no longer be an issue. It was all the way into the 1960s before a full length live-action film was done, The Three Worlds of Gulliver. As the title indicates, it leaves out the fourth land. To this date we have not seen all four stories on the silver screen. It took a Ted Danson television miniseries in 1996 for audiences to see in live-action all four chapters.

20th Century Fox has decided it is high time to revisit the tales of Gulliver, and just in time for the 2010 holiday season. Don’t expect a product close to Swift’s original version, though. Gulliver is overdue for a 21st century upgrade, or so believe the studio heads. That sound you hear is the collective groan from ninth grade English teachers everywhere. Gulliver will be a zany modern-day travel writer who takes an assignment to the infamous Bermuda Triangle. Somehow he wakes up and is suddenly among the Lilliputians. Hijinks will no doubt ensue.

Directing the voyage will be animation savant Rob Letterman. His resume includes only two films, but both were big hits. First was Shark Tale back in 2004 and most recently was Monsters vs Aliens. Fox is certainly taking a risk hiring Letterman as he has zero experience with live action films.

Jack Black steps in as the titular character. Black cut his teeth in Hollywood as the “friend” of the lead, but his scene stealing performances soon brought leading man-caliber roles. His career has skyrocketed, yet success has largely been feast or famine. For every Kung Fu Panda or Tropic Thunder there has been an Envy or Year One waiting in the wings. A wild-and-crazy guy is Black’s calling card, so there is no reason to worry about his lack of dramatic chops. And with comedy there is only one rule: Be Funny. The success of the project will rest on Black’s ability to bring in the laughs. (Brian Pew/BOP)

Vital statistics for Gulliver's Travels
Main Cast Jack Black, Emily Blunt, Jason Segel
Supporting Cast Amanda Peet, Billy Connolly, James Gorden, Catherine Tate, Chris Dowd
Director Rob Letterman
Screenwriter Nicholas Stoller, Joe Stillman
Distributor 20th Century Fox
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture



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